Yes, Indeed, Have I Got A Career For You!


by Jim Penn



Career counseling is fun, especially when you’re creative. 


“Your next appointment is here.  Dr. Bert Wamberly.”


“Thank you.  Send him in, please.”


I rose to greet Dr. Wamberly.  Firm handshake, good eye contact, neatly dressed; makes a nice impression.


“Please, sit down.  What can I do for you?”


“I’m at my wit’s end.  I can’t find a position.  I completed my Ph.D. five years ago with honors, but it seems like I picked the wrong academic discipline.  Comparative literature.  I apply for about 20 openings each year without success.  I need your help.”


“What are you doing now?”


“Teaching part-time at a local community college and working at a polling company doing research and filing.”


I took a few minutes to look over his resume, and noted that he had some sales experience.  Then one of those creative surges hit me, but I realized that I had to approach this very carefully. 


“Ever consider becoming an entrepreneur?”


“An entrepreneur?” he asked.


“Yes.  You know, a businessperson.”


“No, I haven’t.  I love teaching, particularly teaching literature.  It’s my dream.”


“Well,” I paused, “Let’s combine the two.  Why not develop a school for literary studies on the Web?”


“I don’t know.  I’m stone-broke.  I’ll need some capital.  And it may not be successful.”  He paused.  “And how many people would be interested?  Literature departments aren’t exactly the rage right now.”


“People still like to read, don’t they?  Reading groups are becoming more popular.  There are those National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting book programs, and many bookstores and libraries have book clubs.  There’s your challenge—tapping into people’s love of reading and sharing their reading experiences with others.”


“Well, I dunno.”


“I need to know one other thing.  Do you have a health problem that may flare up at a moment’s notice?”


He became very quiet.  “Like what?”


“Oh, a weak heart or, say, Crohn’s disease?”


He responded, very softly, “Yes, I do.  I have a heart condition that requires constant monitoring and medication.”


I was ecstatic.  “There you are.  You’re perfect.  It doesn’t matter if the business is successful.  We’ll…er, I mean, you should only solicit small investors for the capital needed.  No investor should contribute more than $5,000 or $10,000, but it’ll work.  How does the possibility of successful fraud grab you?”


His jaw dropped and he clutched his chest.  Oops.  The heart condition. 


“Are you alright?”


Recovering, he said, “Yes, yes, I guess so.  Do you have any water?”

I poured him a glass, and he drank it with a tiny pill.  “Do you mean, like, larceny?”


“You’ve got it.  Now, I’m not advocating fraud from the get-go.  No sirree!  But if your business doesn’t pan out…well….  You’ve got two of the three  basic ingredients for a successful operation, even if the business isn’t successful.”


“Do I?”


“Yup.  One, only sell investments to small investors who have limited resources, $5,000 or $10,000 at most to invest.  If they lose their investment, it’s such a small amount that they’ll never be able to get an attorney to represent them.  Of course, you’ve got to sell to investors who never meet each other so that they don’t have the opportunity to collectively hire an attorney.  But, you ought to be able to handle that.


“And second, if you’re ever called on the carpet, you can feign your heart condition and become hospitalized.  It will work; I know it.”


He got up quickly.  “Are you mad?  Are you crazy?  I’ve never heard of such an idea.  I came here because you were highly recommended by Jack.  I should’ve known better.  Jack’s been in therapy for five years.”


Grabbing his material from my desk, he ran out of the room.  I looked to see if he was clutching his chest.  Satisfied that he wasn’t, I was relieved, but saddened to have a creative answer to his problem rejected.  The intercom interrupted my thoughts.


“No go, Jim?”


“No go.”


“Sorry.  Well, maybe your next appointment will be better.  Seems he’s an inventor with a clouded past.”


“Great.  Send him in.”


Hope springs eternal.  There’s a good opportunity with suitable shade out there for anyone who will follow my advice.  Oh, in case you’re wondering, the third ingredient is a large dose of chutzpah, although significant “niceness” may also work.